Wednesday, June 27, 2012

LOTTE ANKER, CRAIG TABORN, GERALD CLEAVER – Floating Islands (2009) [Repost]

Label: ILK Music; Catalog#: ILK 162CD; Denmark, 2009
Live concert recording, Concert Hall, Copenhagen Jazz Festival (07/2008)
(Jazz Style: avant-garde, free improvisation, Contemporary Jazz, Free Jazz)


One great album in a decade is an achievement, two great albums in one year is exceptional, yet this trio with saxophonist Lotte Anker, pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver does it. After “Live At The Loft”, published earlier this year, also on Ilk, the trio is back with a new studio album. Anker also figures on the excellent “Mokuto” album. Cleaver participated in the equally great “Farmers By Nature” with Craig Taborn, and on Miroslav Vitous “Remembering Weather Report” .

This is the third album by the trio, and they get better with each release.

The album starts with repetitive prhases on the saxophone, built around a single tonal center, accompanied by muted minimal drumming by Cleaver, soon to be joined by the piano, setting the tone for pure musical hypnotism. Anker keeps building the tension by slightly altering the tone and the pitch, leaving the foreground to the piano, equally soft and minimal, but she keeps the sax present, barely audible, with Cleaver maintaining his muted rumbling sounds, Taborn keeping the attention going, but then after a while the sax resurfaces, slowly moaning, fragile and vulnerable, full of soaring lyricism, then the volume builds, Cleaver gets his sticks out, Taborn uses his left hand for some more powerful chords, and the composition shifts seamlessly into the sixteen minute long second track “ Ritual ” , with intensity and tension building and growing, at a slow and wonderful pace, full of restraint and passion, mesmerizing and trance-inducing, with the rhythm becoming more angular, with the piano pounding chords, the drums kicking and the sax keeping up its wailing, screaming, full-toned howling, with the rhythm shifting underneath, falling in step, moving away again, and when you think this must end, well,… it just doesn ’ t, the power increases, the volume increases, the tension increases, … mad, mindless, repetitive, full throttle, the piano goes haywire, the drums go nuts, and then the sax reduces its pitch, and the rhythm changes again, odd-metered, with only piano and drums hammering on without the sax, increasing the tempo, dominating the scence, and then, out of nowhere, the sax is back again, for another round of heart- rending, gut-wrenching high-pitched wailing, only to end with the piano turning the music out of the storm into quiet waters, full of impressionistic sophistication, moving into the third piece, “ Transitory Blossom ” , on which Anker ’ s sound is again as sensitive as it gets, soft and fragile, evoking the temporariness of things, with almost romantic piano, and again the piece flows as one into “ Backwards River ” , more wayward, more avant-garde, with staccato playing by all three instruments, yet adapting quite rapidly to each other while shifting the piece together towards different musical territory, more nervous, full of wild agitation, with currents and counter-currents played by Taborn on his keys, with Cleaver going berserk at the drumkit, and when their double violence reaches the relentless power of high-speed rapids, the sax joins to add her slice of mayhem to the rhythm section pandemonium, with squeals, shouts, and howls, on and on and on, but things do come to an end, and the the piece suddenly slows down into a jumpy rhythm, unwillingly almost, but the sax goes, the piano goes, the drum stays, leading out and leading in the last track, “ Even Today I ’ m Still Arriving ” , as if the river reaches the ocean, with the sax sounding like seagulls, then the sax plays solo, melodic, lyrical, yet weird in a way, and also beautiful, sensitive, with the piano adding sad minimalistic and impressionistic tones, calm and measured, with Anker adding some sparse notes, not many, but with a stunning emotional depth.

This album has it all : the mastership, the skills, the balance, the musical baggage to draw from, the musical vision, the coherent delivery, the variation, the adventure, the passion, the discipline, the raw emotional power, the sophistication, …. Absolutely stunning.

By Stef (FreeJazz)

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

STEN SANDELL TRIO – Oval (2007) [Repost]

Intakt Records, Catalog#: Intakt CD 122
Country: Switzerland; 2007, (Avant-Garde, Free Improvisation, Contemporary Jazz, Free Jazz)
Design [Graphic] – Jonas Schoder, Painting [Cover Painting] – Terry Nilssen-Love, Photography By – Francesca Pfeffer, Executive-producer – Patrik Landolt, Liner Notes – Ken Vandermark, Mixed By, Mastered By – Göran Stegborn
Recorded on 4 June 2005 at Taktlos Festival, Rote Fabrik, Zürich. Mixed and mastered in Stockholm, May 2006. 

Liner Notes:

“Sten Sandell ’ s playing may be connected to New Music and Improvised Music, and neither of these musical directions would be associated with what is typically considered as Jazz. However, both Paal Nilssen-Love and Johan Berthling have done considerable work with bands more connected to the history of that aesthetic (in Paal ’ s case, most notably with the quintet, ATOMIC; in Johan ’ s, perhaps the trio LSB). The combination of these sets of experience bring considerable force to the range of possibilities in the music played by this group and on this album. Having this music in the air provides important trace of what it means to be alive in our world that would otherwise be missing. I believe that this trio ’ s playing gives us one more reason to live on this planet with optimism for the future. — “ Why Music? ” A very good answer is provided here, through the sounds and ideas of Sten Sandell, Paal Nilssen-Love, and Johann Berthling working together on OVAL.”

— By Ken Vandermark


Busy Chicago multi-reed man Ken Vandermark suggests in his liner notes of Oval, the third release by the Sten Sandell Trio, that the Swedish pianist and composer may represent the future of the piano in contemporary and improvised music. Like other pianists of his generation, Sandell is influenced by the innovations of Cecil Taylor but brings many more ingredients to his music, such as the theories of John Cage and Morton Feldman, classical musical elements from India and Japan, folk music from Sweden, electronics, voice, and an idiosyncratic approach to the piano that often uses extended percussive timbral capabilities. Sandell often works with free improvising ensembles, most notably with the Swedish trio Gush, (reed player Mats Gustafsson and drummer Raymond Strid) whom he has recorded and performed with since 1988, as well as other notable European improvisers such as Evan Parker and Barry Guy.
Oval was recorded beautifully at the Taktlos Festival in Switzerland in June, 2005, and featured Sandell with fellow Swedish bassist Johan Berthling and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. All three musicians demonstrate the same exemplary high level of communication and creativity that characterized their earlier releases, Standing Wave (Sofa, 2000) and Flat Iron (Sofa, 2002). Throughout this live set they supply a convincing answer to Vandermark ’ s musing as to why one would choose to play non-commercial music in an inconsiderate climate. The trio explores so many fascinating sonic possibilities within this format that Vandermark ’ s question becomes redundant.
The velocity and density of Sandell’s playing at the beginning of the first piece, “Ovala Takter I”, is an obvious continuation of Taylor’s legacy, but Sandell navigates this trio into newer territories, using varied and complex methods such as sustain, concentrated attacks, or adding light vocals. He manages to turn aural textures into deep meditations about the possibilities of the piano, more in common with the ethereal and almost transparent playing of the British free improvisation group AMM ’ s John Tilbury, showing the imaginative interplay between members of the trio. The trio keeps a contemplative dynamic at the beginning of “Ovala Takter II,” trying to find common threads in its timbral explorations, and reconstructing its fragile interplay. At times, Sandell’s percussive piano triggers Nilssen- Love ’ s wise use of the cymbals, creating a resonate sound between the two instruments. Berthling ’ s low-end rumination on the bass opens “Ovala Takter III,” while Nilssen-Love and Sandell color his sound with abstract and slowly forming textures that linger in memory. The short and concluding piece, “Oval Ballad,” suggests a gentler example “I believe that this trio’s playing gives us one more reason to live on this planet with optimism for the future”, concludes Vandermark; and indeed Oval is a remarkable recording.

— By Eyal Hareuveni , All About Jazz, USA, Mai, 2007

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

EDDIE PRÉVOST QUARTET - Continuum + (1999) [Repost]

Matchless Recordings – MRCD07
Format: CD, Album; Country: UK Released: 1999
Continuum - recorded at Bracknell Jazz Festival, 3rd July 1983. Previously released as an LP in 1985. Tracks 2-5 recorded at Porcupine Studios London, 27th/28th March 1985. 
Artwork [Front Cover] – Simon Picard
Engineer – Ted Taylor (2) (tracks: 2 to 5)
Liner Notes – Alan Durant


“A tumble of tom-toms and cymblas sets it in motiuon: Larry Stabbins ’ muscular tenor streaks wide arcs of colour around the edge of this tornado, coasting around the driving force of piano and bass which purrs like a revving engine. Prévost ’ s thrumb of sticks-on-skin decorate and expands it further into an insistant pulse. A degree more turbulent, and then it ’ s airbourne. ‘ Continuum ’ charts the whole 39 miuntes of a very fine set delivered at Bracknell Festival in 1983 by the Eddie Prévost Quartet. A procession of solo staements ushers along the development of the improvisation: Stabbins cutting out to leave Veryan Weston ’ s piano, the most startling ingredient of this stylish free jazz troupe, in the foreground. What develops is a rush of carefully collected detail: shades of Monk and Cecil Taylor contrasting with pitter-patter treble runs which sound like they are straight out of a ‘ Tom and Jerry ’ soundtrack. Ckusters of dark, echo-lined bass keys, and then Marcio Mattos ’ sometimes rhythmical, other times reflective string bass work. Not only Prévost ’ s finest free jazz group, but perhaps the finest free jazz record in years.”

David Ilic ‘City Limits’ 1985 ( review of original LP version)

“ The original release of Prévost ’ s 1983 Bracknell appearance represents one of the few ‘ must haves ’ of British free jazz. This re-issue with studio material from 1985 confirms and enhances its status. The new material has an altogether more thoughtful air than the intoxicating intensity of the festival recording. The gergeous ‘ I ’ m in the Mood for a Semantic Theory ’ is an almost totally unexpected straight(ish) ballad, and Larry Stabbins ’ saxophone reminds one forcefully of Archie Shepp in Ben Webster mode. There is a clarity to the studio material which proves the rythm section, (Weston, Mattos and Prévost) to be one of the music ’ s most versatile and imaginative. Prévost, in particular, is revealed as one of the most impressive free-jazz drummers; a role he inhabits far too rarely. ”

Bruce Coates ‘Rubberneck’ December 1999

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